Blue-collar workers constitute a large part of the industrial manpower. It is very important that this workforce be trained in related skills in such a way that they, apart from becoming more productive, are able to attain life-long employability. The Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) sector is the key player in training industrial workers before they enter the labor market.
The TVET sector offers great opportunities for industrial workers to secure formal training from educational and technical institutions before their entry into actual work settings. TVET institutes most often offer such training programs which are highly focused on the specific work domains. But there are other related skills that must be a prime focus of the TVET sector. Such areas are equally important for blue-collar industrial workers to ensure their development and life-long employability. A few of the skills imperative for industrial workers to learn and secure future employability are identified below.
Training in Transferable Skills
Skills obsolescence is one of the major issues today’s workers are facing. There are so many technological advancements in almost all industrial sectors that specializing in only one domain of work may not guarantee life-long employability. For example, if workers are trained to operate a machine that is going to be replaced in the next few years due to computerized technology, they will face a severe risk of unemployment in the future. A few years back, hand embroidery in the textile and fashion industry was a valuable skill, but it has now almost completely replaced by computerized machine embroidery.
It is critical that industrial workers be trained in such a way that they can quickly adjust to changeovers and avoid skill obsolescence. In this regard, industries must collaborate and establish strong relationships with TVET institutes so that progressive and in-demand skills can be incorporated into TVET institute curricula. The training institutes serve as labor training schools to fulfill the needs of the industries. But they can not act to fulfill only the immediate commercial interests of industrialists. Their focus must be to ensure the perceptive development and life-long employability of their pass-outs. For this purpose, new approaches in apprenticeship and cooperative vocational training should be the key areas of focus.
Training in Safety Skills
Nothing is more important than safety. But this is the area most often ignored during the training of workers. Blue-collar workers need to work in a tough environment where they face certain risks that need precautions or protectionary measures. They must be very well aware of the safety measures to be taken to protect their own and others’ lives. One way is to make occupational health and safety a mandatory part of all the training programs. Workers need to be educated with respect to their rights to a safe working environment and the availability of safety equipment.
Training in Entrepreneurial Skills
A blue-collar worker does not always mean to work for others. Apart from inculcating domain-specific training, they need to be made aware of entrepreneurial opportunities related to their field of work. Because such workers do not come from highly formal educational backgrounds, they often lack business skills such as communication, marketing, and management. A part of their training is to focus on imparting entrepreneurship and business skills.
Training in Life Skills
Life is way more challenging than sitting behind a desk or operating a machine. It necessitates a strong mental and ethical approach. Again, due to a lack of formal education, blue-collar workers may not find opportunities of good mentorship, coaching, guidance, and counseling. Because TVET institutes are primarily educational institutions, they can serve as nurseries for training and coaching in life skills such as ethics, decision-making, creativity, and empathy.
It is imperative to comprehend, both by policymakers and the general public, that investing in higher education at the cost of TVET education generates too many leaders but few doers. This leads to high employment that we witness today. There is no doubt that university education is important but technical and vocational education and training are equally important. TVET relates to blue-collar workers who make up a large chunk of the total workforce in an economy. In this connection, Singapore has made a great example by strengthening its TVET system, which is ranked equal to higher education. TVET curricula that incorporate life skills, soft skills, and entrepreneurial abilities, which are typically taught in higher education, can help young people get a head start on their professional lives or start their own businesses.